Traditionally, Volvo has not been known for gut-wrenching performance. Traditionally, Volvo vehicles in the United States have targeted the soccer-mom demographic, and traditionally that demographic has never really been concerned with how quickly a given car can sear the tire tread off its drive wheels. If anything, frugal, budget-minded moms want to make the tire tread last as long as possible.
Tradition, however, also tells us there's a performance enthusiast for every vehicle no matter how obscure, and despite Volvo's inherent squareness, there are still those who live to make Volvo cars perform. Similar to the way the big-displacement, pushrod-V8 enthusiasts of the world congregate in the automotive heartland of America, the core of performance-minded Volvo enthusiasm can be found only in the Scandanavian countries of Europe.
Tommy Borg of (where else?) Flen, Sweden, is an active member of the Volvo Performance Club, and as such you'd expect nothing less from him than a boxy Volvo sedan that's capable of turning 12s in the quarter mile. In his quest for wringing ultimate performance from a Volvo platform, Borg began with a 1999 V70 sportwagon. It seemed a good car to work with, since it came equipped with all-wheel drive and a turbocharged and intercooled five-cylinder engine. However, it soon became apparent that extracting additional power from this engine would be near impossible due to a cranky factory engine management program.
"It was possible to squeeze out 300 bhp from the 1999 Volvo," Borg said. "Good enough for some--not for me."
Though that 300-bhp figure represents gains of nearly 60 bhp, Borg's abnormal aspirations were far loftier. Since he makes his living as a Volvo service engineer, it didn't take long for him to find a solution to his performance needs. Colleagues and other enthusiasts suggested he go with a 1998 model, and an engine that used an older Bosch Motronic 4.4 engine management, and one that had already been proven to be more receptive to aftermarket tinkering.
Borg's second choice was this 1998 S70, a car that used virtually the same powerplant as his V70--the B5234 T, a 2.3-liter turbocharged and intercooled five-cylinder engine. The biggest drawback? The S70 wasn't available with an all-wheel drive system, transferring power through the front wheels as is standard on many Volvo vehicles. Before he could address the issue, however, Borg's first great task would be prepping the engine block for the increased boost he was planning on running.
With support from master Volvo tuners AutoTech Motor in Trollhatten, Sweden, Borg cracked the block and replaced the internals, adding a balanced, forged-steel crankshaft, Verdi forged rods and Mahle 8.0:1 pistons and rings. The cylinder walls were reinforced with ductile iron sleeves to maintain operating integrity under increased duress. A new cylinder head from a 2001-spec engine was placed up top. Its intake and exhaust channels were ported and polished, but the head retains the factory valvetrain equipment, other than a pair of new cams specially profiled to take advantage of new induction equipment and altered fuel curves.
The B5234 T's forced-induction system is now centered around a Garrett ceramic ball-bearing turbocharger. To ensure a correct fit, the exhaust manifold is machined slightly to accommodate the larger turbo. From there, a custom-bent 3-in. exhaust system pipes waste gases out the back. On the cool side of the combustion chamber, a polished intake manifold and redesigned fuel system ensure proper enrichment for the augmented induction charge. The plastic factory intercooler assembly has been replaced with a more efficient, free-flowing aluminum unit with improved stainless steel plumbing. For fuel enrichment, dual fuel pumps and enlarged lines are employed to feed new injectors that, at 680 cm3/min, nearly double the factory injectors' max flow capacity. It was also necessary for Borg to incorporate a fuel return line to circulate fuel back to the tank, keeping it cool and ensuring the fuel supply remains rich enough to accommodate the augmented induction charge.
For his coupe de grace, Borg himself adapted an all-wheel-drive system to his front-drive vehicle, based on hardware found on the all-wheel-drive system present on his V70 sportwagon. Doing so required adapting the motor mounts to drop the engine slightly deeper into the engine bay, thereby making a clear shot from the rear transmission shaft to the final drive.
The all-wheel-drive system found in the V70 is based on a pair of diffs--a transfer differential up front next to the gearbox and an independent rear differential. A viscous coupling, situated just in front of the final drive, directs torque to the front or rear axles, makes all-wheel engagement entirely automatic and offers seamless power transfer, as any good all-wheel system should. A five-speed manual gearbox, Volvo's M46H, transfers power to the four wheels via a modified Audi RS4 clutch.
Suspension modifications have been limited to a few well-placed mods. Oehlins adjustable coilovers have replaced the factory damping equipment, and a custom brace has been located between the front shock towers. The brakes were improved at all four corners with enlarged, slotted rotors and performance pads. Additionally, the brake lines were all upgraded to stainless-steel braided hardware. Seventeen-inch BBS wheels accommodate Pirelli P Zero tires sized 195/45R-17.
Stylistic exterior changes have been foregone except for a small modification that contrasts interestingly with the Euro conversions popular among enthusiasts in the United States. In an effort to set his Volvo apart from its European brethren, Borg changed the indicators to U.S. market pieces. The Volvo's interior remains stock except for the addition of VDO instruments to read out boost pressure, oil temperature and voltage.
The big question is, what's all this hardware good for? The S70 "R," as Borg likes to refer to it, weighs in at approximately 3300 lb. Borg estimates power output at the wheels to be very near 440 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque. These power figures have translated into a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of under 5 sec. (4.8, to be exact), and a best quarter-mile e.t. of 12.5 sec. at 116 mph. Borg also competes with the car in various local club meetings and autocrosses, including the yearly TXM Cup held in Stockholm, and he drives it every day as his basic transportation. The quality of daily driving is, after all, the true measure of a performance street car.